Sunday, September 23, 2007

WHEEEEEEE!: the New Mexico St. recap

Boy, did we need that. Boy, did I never think I would feel so relieved and uplifted by a come-from-behind win at home over New Mexico St. Boy, do I not care in the least. If loving this win is wrong, baby, I don't want to be right.

On with the show!


--I'm catching the game at home on my beautiful plasma screen HD TV, on my beautiful ESPN GamePlan, thanks to the beautiful people at the Auburn ISP Network. Unfortunately, by the time the picture goes through all of that beauty to reach me it is decidedly unbeautiful. In fact, it looks as if the game will be played underwater, or that the camera lenses have been wrapped in gauze, or most likely both.
--I am more nervous for this game than I have been any of the first three of Auburn's season. New Mexico St., yes. But a very possible loss that would represent possibly the low point of my entire Auburn fandom? Yes. Auburn Tiger football 2007: Feel the Excitement! Except That By Excitement, We Mean Paralyzing Dread!
--Andy Burcham and Cole Cubelic are on the call, and my initial excitement at having someone as terrifically-named as Cole Cubelic on the mic is outweighed by the terror of being told that Berry and Dunlap will be replaced by Chaz Ramsey and Ryan Pugh ... i.e., two more true freshmen. Auburn will start three true freshmen on their offensive line tonight. This, friends, is a Foundation for Excellence. In 2009. 2007, I'm more than a little worried about.

First quarter

--Burns gets the start because if there's one thing this offense has no need of, it's veteran leadership. On second down a gaping hole beckons in the middle until Pugh, being a true freshman and whatnot, fails to peel off on the MLB in time. He grabs Burns' ankles from behind. Punt. Bring on Glenn Dorsey!
--Auburn forces a punt on the opponents' opening possession for the first time this season. That this is true despite Auburn having already faced an offense coached by Sylvester Croom somehow detracts from, you know, the rejoicing.
--Third-and-short next possession, Auburn runs Tate left behind Trott and Pugh. At first I vocally question the mental capacity of a coaching staff that thinks running behind a true freshman and Tommy "Seriously, Not a Blocking Tight End" Trott is their best strategy ... and then I realize that running right means running behind not one but two true freshmen. Borges's hands aren't tied so much as tied, dipped into a block of quick-drying concrete, and left in the sun for a few hours.
--Powers lights up an NMSU receiver, who fumbles, and big Pat Sims picks up the ball and rumbles in for a TOUCHDOWN! despite apparently having had his left hand turned into a MegaMan-style laser cannon during the week. He doesn't shoot the NMSU players on his way into the end zone, which is too bad, as he could have picked up some energy capsules. 7-0 Auburn anyway!
--Mumme's offense does its Mumme thing on the Aggies' next possession, mixing together draws, short passes, and the occasional downfield strike on a cool, methodical, 10-play, 80-yard TD drive. The sort of cool, methodical drive Auburn has yet to put together in 12-plus quarters. Damn your calculated efficiency, Aggies! 7-7.
--Of course, who needs methodical when you can score a TOUCHDOWN on a 58-yard bomb from Burns to Rod Smith, who adjusts and makes a terrific play on the ball. Mind you, an Auburn wide receiver actually helping his direly-in-need-of-said help quarterback means pigs will be flying the remainder of this weekend, so take the appropriate precautions. 14-7 Tigers.
--NMSU QB Holbrook goes deep on a 3rd-and-2 and misfires. "Hmm," I think. "These guys should be able to complete a three-yard out in their sleep. Why go long there?" On the next play the Aggies run a fake punt for 20 yards. "Oh, that's why," I think.
--Very next play, NMSU's Chris Williams picks up 11 yards and then fumbles the ball away without even being touched. Wow, this must be what it's like to play against Auburn!
--On 3rd-and-6 Burns rolls out and nails Dunn between the numbers for the first down. Or he would, if Dunn doesn't drop the pass like a grease-covered bar of Ivory. Infuriating. You know what's sad? That Auburn fans never expected this receiving crew to make the spectacular Larry-Fitzgerald-in-triple-coverage-toe-just-inside-the-sideline catches. We would be happy if they merely made the routine 10-yard out, six-yard hook catches when a pass hits them in the hands. And to this point, they haven't been capable of doing even that.

Second quarter

--The Aggies are rolling. 3rd-and-18 after a penalty in Auburn territory, Holbrook puts it two yards out of bounds, and his guy leans over and hauls in the miracle catch for the first. (I let myself make a quick mental comparison between this play and Dunn's. I don't recommend this. It hurt.) The end result is a 14-play, 86-yard TD drive and a 14-14 tie. It's Pepto time.
--I suppose I shouldn't complain seeing as how as recently as, like, four years ago I'd have been following ESPN score updates posted every five minutes ... but the Auburn ISP Network is still just a couple notches above getting the game via two tin cans and a string. There's no down and distance and at first no replay, but now they've solved that by just putting a camera on the scoreboard. It's almost cute, in a way, like what a football broadcast would look like if it was handled by fifth-graders. (Note that this doesn't apply to Burcham and Cubelic, who are actually pretty doggone good.)
--Cox is back in! Cox fumbles the snap! NMSU recovers! Hooray! Seriously, isn't it time to call in an exorcist for Brandon? Has anyone watched to see if he's puking up pea soup? Does he ever pretend to just be looking at something and accidentally turn his head all the way around? Because this--this being three turnovers in Cox's last three first-half possessions and last two first-half snaps--is getting outright unnatural.
--Holbrook goes up top for the touchdown on the Aggies' first snap. 20-14 NMSU after a missed extra point I can't even get myself to think "Those always come back to haunt them!" about (I'm thinking "That extra point would totally haunt them if they weren't going to score six more touchdowns" instead). On a list of all the things in the world I am Most Tired Of, right at this moment "shots of opposing fans celebrating in our stadium" is No. 1 with a bullet.
--Who needs a stat department? The replay of the TD also shows the current yardage totals on the scoreboard. NMSU has 266 yards to Auburn's 71. Please excuse me while I break something.
--Shot of Borges before the kickoff. He looks beyond shock, like someone just told him that his house burned down, but they were able to save his cat and take it to someone else's house, but then that house burned down. Not pretty.
--Cox goes long and hits Dunn in the hands, again. Dunn drops it, again. MAKE IT STOP PLEASE PLEASE AUBURN MAKE IT STOP
--Borges makes it stop by deciding that the game is too important to be put in the margarine-covered hands of his receivers. Tate for 8, Tate for 19, Tate for 9, Fannin for 5, Fannin for 3, Fannin for 1 TOUCHDOWN! WOO-HOO! Also, Whew! 21-20 Auburn. Goodness, could Auburn actually put together the power running game we all expected out of them this game? Surely not.
--Auburn is called for a block in the back on kick coverage. That kind of year, folks.
--Cubelic with the line of the night. Burcham points out that Holbrook is 19-22 for 210 yards and 2 TDs. Cubelic, deadpan: "Those are good numbers."
--Sack of Holbrook, Aggie punt. Welcome back, momentum. We've missed you.
--Cole Bennett sighting! That's just one of the highlights on another solid-looking Auburn drive led by Cox, who even delivers to Stewart under duress rather than, say, handing the ball to the nearest Aggie for safekeeping. He's 5-6, Burcham says, with the one incompletion the shoulda-been-TD to Dunn. Your guess is as good as mine. Did someone slip some holy water into the Gatorade?
--Of course, this is still Auburn 2007, so a corner blitz from the backside nets a sack, Cox is short of an open Dunn on 3rd-and-12 (the good news is that he'd have dropped it anyway, so no worries), and Byrum's 49-yarder is blocked. 21-20 at the half.

Third quarter

--3rd-and-9, Holbrook's got a little bit of pressure to deal with, and he still calmly surveys the field and finds an open receiver for 12 and the first. I'm innately skeptical of small-conference Andre Ware-esque statistical wonders ("Look, Daddy! I threw for 478 yards against San Jose St.!" That's great, son, really), but unfortunately Holbrook looks like the real deal.
--JINX! Three passes later Holbrook tosses up his worst throw of the night, a bad underthrow of an out route that Wilhite gleefully picks. Thanks, Chase.
--ISP gives us a shot of some tykes in the crowd holding up posters. "Go Ben Tate!" says one. How cute! "Go Patrick Lee!" says the other. Um ... Lee? Really? Not, you know, Groves or Chris Evans or, hell, Cox? (He could use a nice poster.) Don't get me wrong, Lee's a good player. Glad to have him aboard. But is this team really so short of heroes the kiddies feel they're reduced to idolizing the nickelback?
--A few Tate runs puts Auburn inside the 20 but then, uh-oh, Evil Cox is trying to zip it into triple-coverage ... but turns out he's Good Cox in disguise! Smith has it, TOUCHDOWN! 28-20. The patient's breathing seems to be returning to normal, doctor.
--Wow, that was some jinx--Holbrook just tried a two-yard dump to a back who wasn't even looking, handing Marks of all people the first and possibly last interception of his career and Auburn's got it at the Aggie 2. Hope you enjoyed it, SenDerrick! Jinxes like these don't come around too often.
--Cox scores a TOUCHDOWN on the sneak, prompting loud chants of "Brandon! Brandon!" from the crowd. WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH WHEN WE'RE WINNING, BRANDON! And winning we are, 35-20.
--NMSU's next four plays: Loss of four, incomplete, incomplete, terrible punt. Auburn has all the momentum and the ball at the Aggie 38! They'll never stop them now! This game is ours!
--Nevermind. Auburn called for roughing the snapper ... yes, roughing the snapper ... and the Aggies keep the ball. Then they drive across midfield. Remember: nothing is going to come easy for this team this season. Nothing.
--Oh well, Auburn does force a punt, gets a first down on a fake punt when Tatum correctly reads an opening on the right half of the field, and would have another near midfield if Rodriguez had come down with a catchable ball on 3rd-and-7. He's seen getting a few words from an, uh, excited (read: exceedingly pissed-off) Tubby, words that probably boil down to "I do strongly, strongly suggest that you make a successful reception the next time you have an opportunity similar to that one, Prechae." But you'll have to boil them for a while, I bet.
--Wilhite makes a stunning one-handed pick! Fantastic play, maybe the best individual one of the year for the Auburn D. NMSU now at a complete halt on offense. Wow, watching this has almost become ... dare I say it ... fun?
--If I had a dollar for every time Auburn had run a play-action fake and rolled Cox in the opposite direction only for Cox to get sacked or hurried into oblivion by an unblocked rusher this season (they just did it again), I'd have a new DVD by now. Hey, the Office Season 3 is out, too.
--3rd-and-5, Cox nearly throws a pick-six on a quick out. But Dunn tips it away, comes down with it himself, then pulls his way forward inch-by-inch like Buck in the sled-dragging scene in Call of the Wild (don't blame me if your high school English teacher skipped it) as several Aggies stand around watching, assuming he'd been down already. (Kids: Play to the whistle.) Very inspirational. Hell of a play. But Robert: it's hard to get too excited about your highlight-reel plays when you're not making the routine plays this offense needs just as much.
--Dunn makes the grab on a come-back route two plays later for seven yards and the first. Good on ya, Robert.

Fourth quarter

--Tate, now up over 100 yards, goes in from the 2 for a TOUCHDOWN and a 42-20 lead. If Tate's going to run with the kind of authority he's shown in this game, Fannin's fumbles are going to make it very hard to unseat him. Especially considering he's got two games to do it.
--NMSU at least goes down swinging, even if it's the sort of swing where the bat flies out their hand and hits the beer vendor, spilling Bud Light all over a society lady in a monocle and her Sunday best. (Or something.) The Aggies try a laughably ill-conceived fake-reverse-or-is-it-a-real-reverse-not-even-we-know gadget on the return, and of course fumble it away. The gumption is admirable. The execution, not so much. Fannin scores the resulting TOUCHDOWN from four yards out (though he and Cox make even this an adventure as Cox expects a handoff, Fannin expects a pitch, and Cox has to shovel it to him one-handed) and it's 49-20. All over but the shoutin'.
--I haven't even mentioned the special teams, have I? Tatum's been oustanding, kick coverage has been right on top of things, Byrum's been off on his placekicks (missed that last XP and the block looked low) but has boomed the kickoffs, and now Ryan Shoemaker returns from his secretly grisly elbow injury (did you pay close attention to his dislocation replay? Hideous! Not this bad but within the same broad ballpark) launches a 62-yard punt. Now if Auburn can get Davis up-and-running, these guys'll really be something.
--Fannin caps it with a 67-yard TOUCHDOWN to put the final at 55-20 and, on a personal note, to remind us that Tate probably doesn't have that kind of breakaway speed. So nice to feel like we have two real options at RB as opposed to the "Likes running backwards" option vs. the "Enjoys fumbling for fun and profit" option.

Of course, it's a feeling that, like the general HUZZAH! feeling of the entire second half, is very likely only going to last until kickoff in Gainesville this Saturday. C'est la vie. I'll enjoy it while it lasts.


J.M. said...

When one of the Auburn ISP Network's camera operators decided to film "the wave" in the stadium I thought I was going to puke from motion sickness.

Michael I said...

awesome post. I laughed my blue butt off.

I am struggling with the morning-after bi-polar disorder which afflicts the AUBURN Nation this time each year. Granduer... Arkansas was tattooed, and given a buy-one-get-one-free body piercing...LSU seemed vulnerable, for the first time since the first-half of their (not ours) Mississippi State game...and, ZOMG, Coach-O put the hold-onto-the-handicapped-rails quivering fits into FLORIDA. TEN-AND-TWO...TEN-AND-TWO...WAR DAMN EAGLE, HEY!!! (I know, back on the prozac big boy...) It just wouldn't be Aubie-ball if it weren't for the soul-wrenching false hope and near-suicidal disappointments...